AS Roma captain Totti dropped from Palermo game after RAI interview.
Comments by the captain of AS Roma football team, Francesco Totti, prompted the squad's coach Luciano Spalletti to leave him out of the Roma-Palermo match at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday 21 February.
The spat developed the day before when the 39-year-old Totti gave an interview to RAI 1 in which he bemoaned the lack of playing time he was being given by Spalletti, who was appointed in January after his predecessor Rudi Garcia was sacked due to poor team performances.
Totti, a football icon in his native Rome, acknowledged his age but insisted that he was fit to play, adding that he deserved "more respect" for all he has done for AS Roma.
The comment was among several thinly-veiled digs at Spalletti confirming a rift between the two. Expressing his sadness at having to make the decision to drop Totti, Spalletti also said there were “roles and rules to respect.”
Against the advice of his handlers, Totti attended the Palermo game as a spectator, and watched his team win 5-0. He was greeted with applause and a chorus of “C'è solo un capitano” while fans reacted with a volley of whistling when Spalletti's name was mentioned on the loudspeaker
Known in the capital as the Bimbo de Oro, Totti has been a key member of AS Roma since 1992, scoring 293 goals and making 723 appearances for the club.
Totti's wife, the television presenter Ilary Blasi, created headlines in January when she suggested her husband's retirement was imminent.
The footballer is now expected to meet with club president James Pallotta to discuss his future once his contract expires in June, three months before his 40th birthday.